Career Change: From Biotech to Musical Team Building
“After contemplating a PhD in molecular biology for three years following college, I decided my love of business and music were what I needed to pursue.”
What was your previous Career?
I previously worked as a molecular and cell biologist in the biotechnology drug development industry in South San Francisco.
How did you know it was time to Change Careers?
After contemplating a PhD in molecular biology for three years following college, I decided my love of business and music were what I needed to pursue.
What was an average day like?
I would routinely clone genes from Candida albicans, a pathogenic fungus, and create DNA constructs using recombinant DNA technology. I would then create new fungal strains and test chemical compounds and analyze their efficacy, presenting my findings to the organic chemists for optimization around that specific molecule class.
What is your new career?
I am the president of Syncopate, a corporate training company that creates team building activities using music, DJing and social media in an interactive business simulation. I manage the programmatic and content design, facilitate events and handle business development.
What is an average day like?
I wake up at 6am and either surf or run, depending on my training schedule. I am showered and bike to the office by 8:30am, and review various business sites for about 30 minutes (Inc., TechCrunch, Yahoo! News). I’ll then make sales calls until noon and reserve the afternoons for meetings or further sales calls. I try to attend at least one networking event per week ranging from entrepreneurial focused or social mixers with the LA Tri Club.
I beat to the rhythm of my own drum, literally and metaphorically, and ultimately followed my heart and passion.
Was the recession a factor in your decision for a career change?
How did you make the leap?
While I was still in biotech I had a conversation with a good friend and world renowned DJ, DJ Vinroc, from the Bay Area. He had been in a similar situation early in his career, and once said to me while I was still in science and doing my business part-time, “You’re just gonna have to cut the cord.” I planned accordingly by building our sales pipeline and lined up additional funding – and finally – cut the cord.
How did you fund your business?
Selling stock options from biotech companies, credit cards, friends and family.
Misconceptions about what you do now?
After I facilitated a recent event for a team of 500 – where 70 teams simultaneously remixed versions of a company song – I was chatting with some of the participants. These three guys were like, “Wow, so you just travel the world, teaching people how to make music? That is so cool – you have the best job ever!” The reality of any small business owner is that you’re always working and it’s not quite as glamorous as they had supposed, but it was a funny and positive conversation.
How do you stay motivated?
It is innate – I wake up every morning with endless energy – ready to tackle the world. Also, our team is amazing and seeing the actual transformation in the people we work with, whether a Fortune 500 company or inner city youths, is totally rewarding.
How do you deal with jealousy?
Never look back.
How have you deal with failure as an entrepreneur?
Never make the same mistake twice.
Would you say to those who believe they need a formal education to change careers?
I am a firm believer in education, although I have a multitude of MBA friends that couldn’t run a business. I think it truly depends on the fortitude of the individual.
If you could share 1 brief nugget of wisdom, what would it be?
Focus on the core product of your business and target market, and don’t get swayed by ancillary products that don’t support that core business. In the beginning, every moment should support the sale of that product.
Any resources or links that you think would be helpful to others looking to change careers?
Partnerup.com is a good resource for networking, as well as local SBDC chapters for starting a business.
How can we learn more about your business?
The Syncopate team can be contacted at 415.823.2554 or online www.transformyourteam.com. Contact Thoryn Stephens directly at Thoryn (@) transformyourteam.com